How ADHD Impacts Social Skills & Easy, Practical Tips

Do you struggle to teach social skills to your child with ADHD? You're not alone! Here are a ton of suggestions to help you out!

Do you have an ADHD child and find they need help socially?

Especially the importance of having social skills?  Explaining to children with ADHD what personal space is, talking out of turn, making & keeping friends? Well, ladies & gents, you’re definitely not the only ones. It is so hard explaining and teaching them social skills in enough time that holds their attention. My son has ADHD and it’s definitely been a challenge teaching and showing him the importance of having social skills.

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Things I find my son having issues with pertaining to social skills:

  • Troubles making friends 
  • Quickly losing friends
  • Struggles with making conversations
  • Doesn’t pick up on social queues
  • Troubles staying on topic
  • Complimenting others
  • Making eye contact 
  • Thinking before speaking & acting
  • Having manners
  • Recognizing others feelings
  • Giving personal space
  • Interrupting others
  • Keeping hands to self and many others…

How about you? Have you faced any of these issues? Are there any I missed? I’ve searched high and low on things to help ADHD kids increase their social skills and thought I’d share some things that worked for me and, hopefully, ones that will work for you as well. For some additional help, you can also check out my post on, Resources for Special Needs Children that You Need to Know! The resources in the article have a lot of products and information to aid in children’s social skills.

Teach Them Politeness & to Praise Others

Be an example to your children. Praise them when they’re doing well or when they’re trying. This is a big one for me in which it took me a long time to incorporate this one. I’m a perfectionist and I’m extremely guilty of doing little praising and too much overcorrecting. I definitely had to troubles praising, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Here are some tips for teaching them politeness & praising others:

  • Be specific when you’re praising them. Let them know what they did to receive praise and encourage them to do it often
  • Teach them empathy & compassion by teaching them about social cues, reading facial expressions & body language (below).
  • Provide some examples or make some scripts to praise others
  • Teach them to be observant of social cues
  • Use the I Can be a Superhero task cards 
  • Practice daily!

Do you struggle to teach social skills to your child with ADHD? You're not alone! Here are a ton of suggestions to help you out!

Teach Personal Space “Bubble”

This one took a long time to shift a change mainly due to my son’s impulsivity. They say it takes 30 days to break a habit and it seemed like a millennium until I broke through this one! It takes diligence that’s for sure! I remember when my son would grab his friends arms right below the shoulders and push & pull them back & forth towards & away from him. Talk about an invasion of personal space! That took some breaking that’s for sure! Here are some tips on teaching kiddos the importance of giving others their personal space:

  • Use stories to explain personal space and use visual cues
  • Show them the feeling of what is “too close” is
  • Teach them the importance of picking at others
  • Teach them to use and recognize body language (below)
  • Show them what they’re doing so they can see it from you and then show them things they can do instead of what they were doing

Do you struggle to teach social skills to your child with ADHD? You're not alone! Here are a ton of suggestions to help you out!

Pick Up Social Cues

This is another big one for my son and the biggest reason he struggles with making and keeping friends. He doesn’t pick up on the social cues, body language, and facial expressions when his friends don’t want their personal space invaded or how they react to his actions. Here are some tips to help your kiddos break through the social barrier:

  • Practice making eye contact
  • Teach them to be observant of others facial expressions
  • Notice other’s body language and discuss what’s expected in different situations. You can do this by watching movies or people watching
  • Point out people’s different pitches & tones of voice
  • Roleplay. You can show them by interacting with their siblings or other parents or even with them.

Do you struggle to teach social skills to your child with ADHD? You're not alone! Here are a ton of suggestions to help you out!

Reading Facial Expressions

It is so important to discuss reading facial expressions. If your kiddos don’t know how to read facial expressions, how can they pick up on how others are feeling or what vibes they trying to cue that they are turned off by the person’s actions? Check out these tips on reading facial expressions:

  • Use pictures or watch movies and videos to show different facial expressions
  • Analyze facial features by people watching or role-playing
  • Play Facial Expressions Bingo
Download free sample social skills worksheets here:

Teach Voice and Tone

Yes, they can tell how your feeling by your voice when you’re angry, sad, or happy, but what about when you’re disappointed or having emotions that just aren’t that easy to read?  It can be incredibly difficult for ADHD kids. Here are ways to overcome it:

  • First, explain different tones in attitude
  • Use apps for your electronic devices like Conversation Coach & Teach Emotions
  • Encourage your children to ask if they’re unsure

Do you struggle to teach social skills to your child with ADHD? You're not alone! Here are a ton of suggestions to help you out!

Picking Up on Someone’s Body Language

Body language is incredibly important when thinking about social cues. ADHDers can put off an incredible amount of unwanted attention and they need to recognize when their actions are unwanted. Here are some tips:

  • Play a “Match the Movement to the Message” game
  • Print out examples of body language
  • Play body language charades
  • Watch movies & videos and discuss body language.

Teach the Kiddos to Think before Doing or Saying Something

It’s hard to pick the most important topics when it comes to social skills, but thinking before acting or saying something is definitely up on the charts! My son does so many things without thinking about his actions before doing them. It takes diligence…I mean blood, sweat, and tears diligence! Impulsivity is one of the biggest downfalls when it comes to ADHD. This one definitely needs to be a daily priority to maintaining levels of acting appropriately. Here are some ways to manage those impulsivities:

  • Provide visual reminders to keep kids on track  
  • Encourage appropriate behavior with recognition and rewards
  • Make clear, enforceable expectations
  • Be explicit about how your child is to behave
  • Discourage a problem behavior by “charging” for each infraction
  • Teach your child to label their feelings
  • Ask them to repeat directions
  • Teach them problem-solving skills
  • Teach anger management skills
  • Provide structure & consistency
  • Be a good role model – you go first
  • Keep them physically active…get all that extra energy out
  • Play impulse control games.

Do you struggle to teach social skills to your child with ADHD? You're not alone! Here are a ton of suggestions to help you out!

Now that you’ve learned some ways to overcome the ADHDer social skills barrier…

I hope it will inspire you to help your kiddo even more! There are so many ways to help children with ADHD make more friends, think more clearly, and so on… Althoughhere’s the kicker: IT TAKES TIME, PATIENCE, and PERSISTENCE!

These are not easy overnight solutions! I’m sure you’ve spent time trying to explain something to your ADHD kiddo until you’re blue in the face. As with anything, it takes time and constant reminding for it to sink in. I know that’s one of the most difficult things is staying persistent and on top of things, especially on days when you’re just not feeling up to it, but it pays off! Don’t give up!

For those of you who need a little extra guidance on teaching your kids social skills, check out Autism Homeschool Mama’s Behavior & Social Skills Activities Mega Bundle! It is packed with 20+ activities, games, and worksheets that will not only hold your ADHD child’s attention, but also teach them about social skills and how to handle those situations ADHDers face.  Okay, so let me know what you think in the comments!

More about Sharla

Sharla blogs at Minnesota Country Girl. She’s an Air Force veteran, single mom, homeschooling mom, gardener, hunter, fisher, explorer of new & exciting places and a little of everything in between!! Visit her site for homeschooling and homesteading inspiration!  You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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Author: Jill C

Jill is a Christian, homeschooler, "boy mom", and special needs parent. Jill has ADHD and has learned firsthand how adapting environments can be key to finding success! Her current mission is to empower parents whose desire is to homeschool their special needs children and helping them squash their self-doubt!

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